On my holiday last year, I noticed a dad and his young daughter eating an ice cream by the pool. The child was staring blankly into the middle distance, the dad at his phone. What a sad reflection on modern life, I harrumphed at the time.
This year, lying on my sun lounger not a million miles from Nice, I read reports of Ofcom’s latest Communications Market Report. Putting aside the fact that I’d broken rule # 1 of holidaying (DON’T WORK), a few things leapt out.
Apparently, the average Briton checks his phone every twelve minutes and spends 24 hours a week online. There is also a growing acceptance of using mobile phones when in company. Whilst 83% of Britons aged 55+ thought it unacceptable to check a phone during mealtime, that figure almost halved in the 18-34 age range.
These findings pose challenges to society, and publishers. For publishers trying to attract readers, they are dealing with ever-decreasing attention spans and ever-increasing numbers of distractions. I’m reminded of those prescient souls who, many years ago, were saying that publishers’ main competition in the digital age comes not from other publishers, but from other calls on consumers’ time: social media, video streaming and gaming.
At a wider level, society will have to adapt to a populace that is increasingly unable to say focused or engaged and prone to increased levels of anxiety and digital addiction. People will need to reconcile themselves with the opportunity cost of spending all this time online: all the other things they could be doing and the relationships they could be having if they weren’t forever elsewhere.
Easy, perhaps, to become a little despondent. Maybe better to respond as the locals no doubt would, with a gallic shrug and a “c’est la vie”!